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When it comes to perception, it is not only important to pay attention to the general, but also to orient oneself especially to the individual. NLP rejects a valid assignment of meaning to body language for all people in every situation. Instead, a new concept was developed with calibration, which puts places the individuality of each person in the foreground.
By calibration we mean the sensory fine-tuning with regard to behavioral expressions of our fellow man. Certain internal states correspond to certain external physiologies. When I guide someone through a process, it is useful to know their "physiologies" in order to be able to control the process at any time and to know where the other person is.
Calibration is the ability to recognize externally perceptible features and assign them to a condition. For example, after I have adjusted my perceptions of my counterpart, I can see, through a subtle change in their face, whether a proposal is well received, or whether perhaps further arguments are needed.
Accurate calibration gives me feedback on whether my interventions are successful. I receive information about my counterpart, so I can adjust my communication accordingly.
Calibrating in the NLP language refers to the "process of attuning oneself to the non-verbal signals that indicate a particular state in the other person".
Grinder and Bandler, 1987
Calibration requires the ability to accurately perceive nonverbal signals and associate the physiology of internal states with external signs.
"Calibrating means knowing what your interlocutor is doing internally (for example, what experience he is recalling), and watching closely what he is betraying externally (which physiology he is showing) and remembering."
Distinction and advice: Calibrating is not pacing. Nevertheless, a fine ability to perceive, which is necessary for the calibration, is also an important prerequisite for pacing. Calibrating means first that I take in information from one’s voice, face or other body reactions. Whether or not I mirror this (pace) is another matter.
Exercise for visual calibrating: Guessing whom
Group of three people: A, B and C, ca. 10 minutes, then change roles
- A thinks about a person he / she likes (= Person X) for about 45 seconds. B helps A get the most vivid, clear memory of that person. B and C calibrate e.g., breathing, facial expression, skin color, etc., (= physiology).
- A thinks about a person he / she does not like (= Person Y) for about 45 seconds. B helps A get the most vivid, clear memory of that person. B and C calibrate e.g., breathing, facial expression, skin color, etc., (= physiology).
- B asks A the following questions that A answers by saying that he / she is thinking of the person without saying anything about that person. B and C now read from the physiology whether it is person X or Y.
- Which person shows more temper?
- Which person has darker hair?
- Which person is older / older / heavier / more beautiful?
- Which person lives farther away?
- Which person did you last see?
- Which person has the bigger car?
- Which person ....?
B and C pose these questions until both can safely recognize A’s nonverbal responses. If you are completely wrong, go back to steps 1) and 2) and recalibrate.
Exercise for auditory calibrating
Group of three: A, B and C, ca. 5-10 minutes, then change roles
- A keeps his / her eyes closed
- B makes a sound (e.g., finger snap, clapping hands, etc.) and then calls his / her name.
- C copies each sound that B made as accurately as possible and gives his name.
- Repeat steps 2) and 3) several times until A believes he can recognize the differences in the sound.
- B or C makes the sound without giving their name and A tries to identify who it was.
- B and C try to make their sounds as similar as possible until either A gives up or has "won" and recognizes the small differences.
Exercise for kinesthetic calibrating
Form small groups of 7-10 people.
Person A closes his eyes and puts his hand forward. The others now shake hands with A and say their name, twice each, if desired. A calibrates to the handshake of the other participants. Then everyone in the small group shakes hands with A again, this time in a different order, and A must guess whose hand is whose.
Make sure that the others change positions in between, so that A cannot tell who is coming by the direction or by a sound. Anyone whose hand is correctly guessed stops shaking hands. If A can no longer guess anyone certainly or has guessed all hands correctly, then the next one person in the group takes his turn and closes his eyes. The exercise becomes more difficult as the handshakes are varied.